Just 20km west of Otaru, the engaging town of Yoichi (余市) is a gateway to the Eastern Shakotan Peninsula and on the route for Niseko. The main joy here is tasting malt whisky, plus fruit picking and visit the old fishing houses. It is worth stopping to stroll if you are passing.
The NASA’s first Japanese cosmonaut Mori Mamoru lived in this town and studied at the local high school.
The following sights (except Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery) are open from late April to early December except Monday.
Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery
(ニッカウヰスキー余市蒸留所) The Scottish-style Nioka Whisky Yoichi Distillery was founded by Taketsuru Masataka (Massan) in 1934. It is home to Japanese malt whisky. Massan was studied for whisky making in Scottland and married with Jessie Roberta Crown (Rita).
Yoichi has the necessary conditions for distillery construction such as cool climate, peat, clean air and water.
You can taste brands of whisky at the Nikka Kaikan (ニッカ会館).
More info www.nikka.com/eng/distilleries/yoichi
Old Shimo-Yoichi Unjoya
(旧下ヨイチ運上家) The Unjoya was a trading post between Ainu and Japanese during the late Edo period (19th-century), which has a household shinto altar and quaint garden. A ticket office is on the opposite side.
Old Yoichi Fukuhara Herring House
(旧余市福原漁場) About 2km northwest of the town center, the Fukuhara Gyoba (herring house) amid the omoya (owner and fisherman’s home), archive and warehouses used until 1903. It has fishing gear, old photos and oil paintings. Very friendly volunteer staff (speak a little English) will guide you on weekends.
Yoichi Fishery Museum
(よいち水産博物館) This outdated museum is situated on a hilltop across from the town hall (go up a steep slope). There are exhibits on old fishing gear, gorgeous platters and large paintings of the herring era drawn in the early 20th-century.
Just a short walk from JR Yoichi Station (余市駅). Note that the distillery is regularly closed from 25 December to 7 January each year.